V Corps’ Special Airborne Soldiers Turned Rangers: Cold War History

LRRP 3779

By Devin Klecan, DVIDS.

“The eyes and ears of V Corps move on little cat feet. The Long Range Reconnaissance Company could set themselves up on your front lawn, stay all day, and you’d never know they were there, all the time they’d be radioing your every action, including your dinner menu, back to their base camp,” wrote Richard Cole in 1961, a reporter for The Guardian.

On July 15, 1961, the U.S. Army Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Company 3779 was activated in Wildflecken, Germany, by the Seventh U.S. Army to specifically serve as a special company under V Corps. At first, the company was assigned to the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment for administration and court-martial jurisdiction. During that time, the company wore the Seventh Army shoulder patch complimented with a blue and white airborne tab, and was the only unit near the East German border actively on jump status.

V Corps needed Soldiers that were ready to fight and win during an era of uncertainty, now known as the Cold War. The Corps deployed across the West German states of Hessen and Bayern (Bavaria), providing protection and support for four of the six hotspots said to be the most likely Soviet penetration corridors into West Germany.

The company conducted extensive exercises such as rehearsals for deep penetration missions in tactically significant areas, troop training for special missions that involved team placements of T-4 Atomic Demolition Munitions, and locating enemy battlefield targets for Army Nuclear Delivery Systems.

In Jan. 1963, the company relocated to Edwards Kaserne (near Frankfurt, Germany), and upon the completion of a successful change of command ceremony shortly after, replaced their Seventh Army patches with the well-known white and blue V Corps patches placed below their airborne tab.

V Corps Soldiers stayed at Edwards Kaserne temporarily. The company moved again on May 9, 1963, to Gibbs Kaserne in Frankfurt to support the corps’ intelligence section, with the Soldiers classified as “V Corps Special Troops.”

At the time, the company was often assigned to honor guard duties in garrison. Later, the company was chosen to provide honor guards to represent the U.S. Army Airborne at the 20th anniversary of the corps’ D-Day landing of 1944 on June 6, 1964. The ceremony consisted of 122 enlisted men and four officers in attendance.

The company name was officially changed to Company D, LRRP,17th Infantry on May 15, 1965, due to the end of the company’s provisional status under V and VII Corps. The company did not change, containing the same personnel, mission, and barracks.

Overlooked by motivated leadership, V Corps’ LRRP’s “developed and perfected aspects of Long Range Patrol Operations that resulted in the issue of the first LRRP TO&E (Table of Organization & Equipment) 7-157E, and the publication of the first Long Range Reconnaissance Company Field Manual, FM 31-16,” wrote Bob Murphy, a Soldier that served in the company from 1964-1967.

The company also formalized the trends for Ranger status, with a requirement to have pre-set designated positions to ensure success in the field. Bearing the title “Ranger” was a requirement, with all 208 Soldiers in the company being Airborne qualified.

The men conducted constant training in cycles, focusing on field training exercises that emphasized the importance of camouflage, radio operator training and combating tactics used by the Soviet Union.

In 1968, the U.S. Army began a large pullout of troops from Europe, code named “OPERATION REFORGER.” The company found itself at Fort Benning, Georgia, in July that same year. At Fort Benning, the company was the only active duty Airborne unit on post. The Soldiers of the company, still bearing the V Corps patch, used their training to act as enemy forces at Ranger training sites. Even more so, about half of the ranks that filled the company saw combat in Vietnam, with most of them having been with the 101st Airborne Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade in theater.

Yet again, on Feb. 1st, 1969, Company D, underwent a name change to A/75th Infantry (Rangers) with a new commanding officer. Upon the name change, the unit adopted the 197th Infantry Brigade’s shoulder patch and kept the Airborne tab.

The company spent time training other Soldiers heading to Vietnam in the states, but never formally deployed to Vietnam themselves due to V Corps’ objective supporting NATO allies and partners in multiple REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) exercises. REFORGER tested the ability of conventional forces to fight in a conventional war scenario to demonstrate American determination. The first REFORGER exercise was conducted on Jan. 6, 1969, with V Corps participating in each exercise that same year.

The A/75 Infantry worked with 1st Cavalry Division primarily by July 1972, but always had to stay on a high mission training status for V Corps’ original mission set for the LRRP. The A/75 Infantry maintained their presence in Germany and deployed in 1973 to participate in the year’s annual REFORGER exercise. Just as V Corps’ LRRP Company before them, the Soldiers of A/75 developed as a unit dedicated to service in Europe. On Dec. 19, 1974, the company was deactivated and cased its colors for the last time.


Author: This article by Spc. Devin Klecan of Victory Corps was first published on February 1, 2023 by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. DVIDS content is in the public domain.

Image: Various photos show V Corps’ Long Range Recon Patrol Company training in Germany in the 1960s, with the unit patch being displayed in the center. U.S. Army photo illustration by Spc. Devin Klecan.